One Quarter of Ireland Affected by Another’s Drinking

By Adam Farley, Assistant Editor
June / July 2014

New research has found that more than a quarter of the population is affected by someone else’s drinking habits. While alcohol consumption in Ireland has steadily fallen over the past decade, the study aimed to look not at those who imbibe, but to investigate greater societal impacts of their actions. “Alcohol’s Harm to Others in Ireland,” published in late March by Ireland’s Health Services Executive (HSE), focused on the effects of other people’s drinking in three separate settings – the family, the workplace, and the general population – across five separate indicators.

At least 28 percent of the population has experienced one of the following effects of someone else’s drinking, according to the study: family problems, being driven by a drunk driver, physical assault, money problems, and vandalization. The study also studied men and women separately and found that men are more likely to report assault while women are more likely to experience family problems due to another’s habits.

CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland Suzanne Costello argues that even though the results are not always publicly visible, “harms to others from alcohol can range from minor to serious harms and public order offenses, and is one of the primary causes of child welfare and protection issues in Ireland.”

The Irish Times also reported that problem alcohol consumption costs the exchequer 3.5 billion euros per year, or roughly three times the annual budget of the Department of Agriculture.  Kathryn D’Arcy, director of Ibec’s Alcohol Beverage Foundation of Ireland, told the Times that part of it may have to do with a culture of tolerance for overindulgence and believing alcohol problems to be individual rather than societal, which the study aims to refute. Highlighting the fact that alcohol consumption affects more than just imbibers themselves, the study argues that “problem alcohol use can no longer be framed exclusively in the realm of personal responsibility.”

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